The two faces of personhood: Hobbes, corporate agency and the personality of the state

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jats:p There is an important but underappreciated ambiguity in Hobbes’ concept of personhood. In one sense, persons are representatives or actors. In the other sense, persons are representees or characters. An estate agent is a person in the first sense; her client is a person in the second. This ambiguity is crucial for understanding Hobbes’ claim that the state is a person. Most scholars follow the first sense of ‘person’, which suggests that the state is a kind of actor – in modern terms, a ‘corporate agent’. I argue that Hobbes’ state is a person only in the second sense: a character rather than an actor. If there are any primitive corporate agents in Hobbes’ political thought, they are representative assemblies, not states or corporations. Contemporary political theorists and philosophers tend to miss what is unique and valuable about Hobbes’ idea of state personality because they project the idea of corporate agency onto it. </jats:p>

Hobbes, corporate agency, state personhood, representation, authorization, early modern political thought
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European Journal of Political Theory
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SAGE Publications
This research was funded by a Doctoral Fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; a Rothermere Fellowship from the Rothermere Foundation; and a J.W. Pickersgill Fellowship from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.